Rockefeller Center offers generous discounts to lure boutiques and local businesses



A customer shares his jersey haul outside of Saturdays Football. Photo by Allison Otis

Portuguese soccer forward Cristiano Ronaldo has a die-hard fan in Jade Baas, 13, from the Netherlands. She and her father Jos Baas waited in line outside of Saturdays Football at Rockefeller Center for nearly two hours before the store opened on a recent Friday morning.

The shop primarily sells vintage soccer jerseys and in-house t-shirts. Customers line up for hours on Fridays and Saturdays when they restock the store, hoping to score jerseys that range from about $40 to $250 based on condition and rarity. The most popular items belonged to David Beckham, Ronaldo and Lionel Messi of Inter Miami.

Saturdays Football joins several retailers that have taken advantage of generous leases offered by Rockefeller Center landlord and real estate investment firm Tishman Speyer, leveraging the favorable terms to open their second permanent retail location and the first in New York City. Saturdays signed a long-term lease to open Sept. 1, after operating a a pop-up on the site from July 28 to Aug. 28.

The store met “everybody’s expectations,” said Raul Navarr, who managed the pop-up during its last week.

Tishman Speyer is seeking to transform retail at Rockefeller Center by recruiting small businesses with flexible and discounted short-term rental agreements, actively diversifying the portfolio away from corporate behemoths like FAO Schwarz and Tiffany’s to shops with a boutique sensibility and a devoted online following to capture New York shoppers’ attention.

Former tenant Ian Charms felt lucky when the Rockefeller Center team reached out to the jewelry brand to propose a limited term partnership. Born on Instagram during the pandemic and worn by celebrities like Doja Cat, Dua Lipa and Justin Bieber, Ian Charms operated a store in the center from October 2022 to this past February.

“We had no plans of opening a retail store. When the opportunity came to work with Rockefeller, that was an opportunity we could not pass down,” said Sasha Arijanto, Ian Charms managing director.

While the average asking rent in Manhattan’s prime retail corridors increased for the fourth consecutive quarter to $645 per square foot, according to a report by real estate firm CBRE, overall pricing remains 42% below peak levels from 2014. That means the market still requires generous concession packages and flexible lease terms to close deals.

A former Rockefeller Center tenant who occupied a 275-square-foot space earlier this year secured a lease that only required them to make $6,500 a month to break even and cover payroll. The shop’s primary financial obligation to Rockefeller Center was to pay 15% of gross sales to Tishman Speyer, according to the document. The lease also allowed the tenant to vacate the space early and penalty free with 30 day’s notice.

The biggest expense was the initial buildout, costing roughly $15,000. The cost was minimal because the space came as an empty white box, with working electrical outlets, HVAC, internet connectivity, audio speakers and security. The prior occupant’s fixtures and signage were all removed.

Meanwhile, neighboring Rockefeller Center tenant LEGO signed a 10,000-square-foot lease in 2020 for $4 million annually, according to real estate news site TheRealDeal.

“You definitely need the long-term leases. A lender can’t lend on short term. It’s just not stable,” said David Abrams, CEO and founder of real estate brokerage and advisory firm masonre. According to Abrams, charging rent based on a percentage of sales was “a COVID thing” when landlords had to get creative. Previously, fixed-rate base rent was the standard.

He says that the industry now offers mostly a hybrid between base rent and a percentage of sales.

Tishman Speyer stopped responding to request to comment on their retail strategy after initial agreement.